Does Science Validate Meditation?
Meditation is an act of self-reflection, deep thoughts, and concentration on thoughts and feelings. It is a powerful tool that shifts your awareness. Meditation is a proven scientific technique to reduce stress, increase happiness, and improve overall health. Moreover, it is used for healing, stress reduction, boosting brain function, and problem-solving. But many people are still confused about this ancient practice.
The top mind-blowing meditation statistics for 2021 estimate that 200–500 million people meditate globally. Meditation improves 60% of anxiety symptoms and reduces the risk of getting hospitalized due to coronary diseases by 87%. Among the American population, 35 million people have tried meditation once.
Meditation is one of the fastest-growing trends in healthcare. But what exactly is it? What are the different types of meditations? This article details some of the best-known meditative techniques, science-based facts about meditation, how it improves brain function, stress relief, and its effect on mental health.
Does Science validate mediation?
Some people believe that meditation is still a hippie thing, and there’s no scientific proof of it, but scientific research validates that meditation brings numerous health benefits to a person.
For example, Dr. Mehmet Oz recently cited scientific studies showing the positive effects of meditation on health. He quoted, “I’m not enthusiastic about including 15 minutes alone in a room if it doesn’t bring measurable improvement in brain function.”
Research and evidence show that when we practice different types of meditation, our minds and bodies react in numerous ways. Over 18,000 available scientific studies have validated meditation for its positive impact on overall well-being.
Studies such as “Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention” and “Does mindfulness meditation improve cognition?” have found that regular meditation benefits focus, creativity, memory, empathy, and stress. Neuroscientists have studied how meditation impacts the brain’s structure, function, and performance. Now researchers have identified specific benefits that extend beyond one’s imagination, including a global rise in compassion, increased generosity of spirit, and–perhaps most significant–helping to transform societal attitudes about age, weight, diseases, and economic status.
What are different types of meditation?
There are different types of meditation. A few of them are described below:
1. Breathing awareness meditation
Breathing awareness meditation leads to increased blood flow in parts of the brain related to attention and interoceptive perception, likely through a down-regulation of thalamic activity and a consequent increase in prefrontal cortex activity.
Method: Sit comfortably with your eyes closed in a quiet and undistracted location. Take a full, deep breath through your nose (and pause), and imagine sending this air all the way down to your toes. Continue to breathe slowly and fully until you feel completely relaxed.
Yoga is a technique of relaxation, deep breathing, and self-awareness through the practice of things like yoga poses. Studies have shown that yoga helps you reduce stress. Yoga can also improve health, especially spirituality. Incorporating meditation-like practices into your life can help you develop a healthier lifestyle. Yoga meditation includes Kundalini yoga, which enhances neuromuscular functions of the body.
3. Loving-kindness Meditation
Loving-kindness meditation can make you more altruistic. In this technique, you close your eyes and imagine the faces of different people. You may or may not know those people. You direct positive vibes and energy to yourselves and then to those people as a ripple effect. Letting go of negative thoughts, unpleasant incidents, and memories is a major part of this technique.
4. Mindful Meditation
Mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety and increases patient satisfaction by reducing depressive symptoms and rumination (i.e., thinking about the past). According to some studies, it leads to increased blood flow in parts of the brain related to attention and interoceptive perception, likely through a down-regulation of thalamic activity and a consequent increase in prefrontal cortex activity.
5. Body scan or progressive relaxation
Body scan or progressive relaxation elicits the relaxation response, characterized by reduced heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decreased activity in the sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the body’s “fight-or-flight” response).
6. Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation is a simple practice that can be done anywhere, anytime, and can provide tremendous benefits. It’s the perfect tool to manage stress and improve overall health and wellbeing. In this method, we focus on mantra, i.e., words, phrases, and syllables. It boosts self-confidence and compassion.
7. Visualization technique
In this technique, you picture or imagine anything or anyone and replace your breath with a mental image. It’s similar to recalling an old friend’s face vividly. The differentiating feature of this technique is to focus on any physical sensation and observe our mind.
8. Transcendental meditation
This technique involves sitting comfortably with closed eyes and engaging your mind in effortless practice for 20 minutes twice a day. Morning meditations are more relaxing.
9. Vipassana meditation
Vipassana meditation technique gives you an insight into the true nature of reality in several areas of human existence like emptiness, non-self, suffering, dissatisfaction, and impermanence.
Other techniques of meditation include:
- Chakra meditation.
- Qigong meditation.
- Sound bath meditation.
- Zen meditation.
What are the health benefits of Meditation?
Meditation is one of the best ways to improve and maintain your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It’s also an important coping skill for people with depression and anxiety and a way to balance out the stresses of daily life. The following are different health benefits of meditation:
1. Meditation reduces stress and anxiety
Meditation benefits include stress reduction, reduced anxiety, better performance at school and home, addiction recovery, healthier aging brain, and slowing of Alzheimer’s disease.
Meditation is the act of being completely aware of yourself in the moment. It is a simple form of mindfulness. In this technique, we focus our attention on the present to bring our minds back from daydreams and negative thoughts, which can help prevent stress and improve overall well-being. More than 500 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year. Meditation has been proved to reduce stress and anxiety significantly. It also helps in mood swings.
2. Effect of meditation on illness
Meditation is proven to improve eye-hand coordination, reduce anxiety, ease pain in childbirth and avoid drug dependence. It can even improve the brain’s performance with aging.
In chronic illnesses like cancer, hypertension, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety disorders, diabetes, and chronic inflammatory disorders, mediation has been proven to exert beneficial effects. It reduces the intensity of chronic pain.
Benson describes the relaxation response of meditation as it decreases blood pressure and the rate of metabolism and improves circulation, breathing, and brain function.
3. Meditation helps relieve insomnia
Meditation is a practice that is still shrouded in mystery today, but there are numerous health benefits of meditation that can be applied to our lives immediately. In the beginning, meditation helps you sleep better. It allows you to experience better mental health. On the top, it reduces cravings for substances such as foods or television. Furthermore, studies indicate that people who use meditation practices have an improved ability to concentrate on work and at-home duties. It gives an increased sense of self-confidence. A calm mind and peaceful thoughts help you sleep early. Meditation evokes relaxation responses that are conducive to sleep. It also boosts up melatonin levels, necessary for sleep induction.
4. Meditation and mental health
Meditation can help relieve anxiety, improve physical performance, and serve as an outlet for dealing with anger, grief, frustration, and addiction. Meditation stretches are versatile for all ages and can vary greatly in their demands – from total relaxation to more intense poses that reap the benefits of yoga.
The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force, develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness, gain self-insight, overcome negative emotions and thoughts, and improve mental and physical health.
5. Meditation and personal growth
Meditation is the mental training that can be adopted for personal growth. As it is done in a quiet place without any external factors distracting the individual from the activity, it helps you think positively and get mature. The best time to do meditation is when one has nothing to do, and there are no obstructions around.
It is a mental activity that involves focusing on a particular thing. In various religious traditions and spiritual practices, this includes techniques of concentration or mindfulness aimed at producing a “meditative state” characterized by deep relaxation and self-awareness.
Learn more about the Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is a technique of self-awareness leading to a peaceful mind and healthy body. Regular meditation is beneficial for people of all ages, i.e., kids, adults, and older people. It helps relieve anxiety and mental health problems, improve sleep, and develop personality and personal growth. It has both medical and spiritual benefits. Developing meditation skills takes time, patience, and persistence – but the benefits are significant.
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